Leonardo DiCaprio Refused ‘Titanic’ Screen Test, So James Cameron Said, ‘You’re Going to Read, Or You’re Not’ Getting Hired

James Cameron said that Leonardo DiCaprio’s audition for the role of Jack in “Titanic” was far from easy. In a video interview for GQ magazine, the Oscar-winning director remembered how Leonardo DiCaprio first declined to read for the role of Jack opposite Kate Winslet. If the young actor didn’t read, he wouldn’t get the part, Cameron said.

According to Cameron, “Leo and I met, and then Leo did a screen test.” It’s ironic that we’re having this meeting in my conference room while I wait to meet an actor. When I look around the workplace, I see that every single woman is present at this meeting. Each and every one of them was eager to finally meet Leo. It made us laugh so hard that we cried.

Leonardo DiCaprio Refused 'Titanic' Screen Test
Leonardo DiCaprio Refused ‘Titanic’ Screen Test

When first introduced, Leonardo DiCaprio “charmed everyone,” but the screen test proved more divisive. Winslet had already been cast as Rose when Cameron arranged a screen test for DiCaprio.

“He came back a couple of days later, and I had the camera set up to record the video,” Cameron said. “He didn’t know he was going to test. He thought it was another meeting to meet Kate. So I said, ‘Okay, we’ll just go in the next room, and we’ll run some lines and I’ll video it.’ And he said, ‘You mean, I’m reading?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Oh, I don’t read.’ I shook his hand and said, ‘Thanks for coming by.’”

Cameron was prepared to immediately reject DiCaprio, but the actor returned to him and begged, “Wait, wait, wait. If I don’t read, I don’t get the part. Just like that?” Cameron responded, “Oh, yeah. Come on. This is a giant movie that is going to take two years of my life, and you’ll be gone doing five other things while I’m doing post-production. So, I’m not going to fuck it up by making the wrong decision in casting. So, you’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.’”

“So he comes in, and he’s like every ounce of his entire being is just so negative — right up until I said, ‘Action.’ Then he turned into Jack,” Cameron concluded. “Kate just lit up, and they played the scene. Dark clouds had opened up, and a ray of sun came down and lit up Jack. I’m like, ‘All right. He’s the guy.’”

The on-screen connection between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet helped propel “Titanic” to the top of the box office. The film has earned $2.2 billion at the box office, making it the third highest-grossing title of all time (without accounting for inflation).

You can see Cameron’s entire video interview with GQ below.

YouTube video

Last Lines

According to director James Cameron, Leonardo DiCaprio had a challenging audition for the character of Jack in the 1997 blockbuster film “Titanic.” The Oscar-winning director recalls Leonardo DiCaprio turning down an audition for the role of Jack opposite Kate Winslet in a video interview with GQ magazine. Cameron remarked that the young actor wouldn’t be cast if he couldn’t read.

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